George Washington Carver, born into slavery in the early 1860’s (exact date unknown), rewrote the book on alternative crops, such as peanuts and sweet potatoes. Actually, he wrote the book. He managed to obtain an education by attending a series of high schools before earning his diploma from Minneapolis High School in Minneapolis, Kansas.
He found it difficult to get into college because of his race, so he traveled to Ness County, Kansas where he maintained a small laboratory with plants and flowers. He also grew rice, corn and various fruit trees, earning money by performing odd jobs around town. Carver took out a loan and began studying at Simpson College, Indianola, Iowa. A teacher encouraged him to study botany at Iowa State Agricultural College in Ames. In 1891, he was their first black student. He continued on until he got his master’s degree.
He developed many agriculture techniques such as crop rotation and developed many recipes for sweet potatoes and peanuts. He published bulletins to distribute his agricultural information.
Carver was invited to speak at the United Peanut Associations of America’s convention in 1920. His testimony before Congress helped establish the Fordney-McCumber Tariff in 1922 which included imported peanuts. It helped American peanut farmers be more competitive with Chinese imports.
In January 1943, Carver fell down a flight of stairs and died from complications from the fall. He was approximately 78.